Who would have thought it is already LSU week in Gainesville, with the Tigers coming to The Swamp on Saturday Night? The season goes by fast, and it feels like yesterday that the Gators opened up their season back in September. Florida is coming off a 24-17 homecoming win over Missouri, and LSU is coming off a 40-13 home loss to a good Tennessee team. Both the Gators and the Tigers go into The Swamp with a 4-2 record, but LSU comes in with the better performance in SEC play with a 2-1 mark. The Gators got their first conference win last week as they are now are 1-2 in SEC play. Both head coaches, Billy Napier and Brian Kelly are in their first season at the schools, and Kelly is known for his time at Notre Dame as he spent 12 seasons in South Bend.
The Gators and the Tigers have plenty of history together as the two teams go way back to 1937, the year the two teams first met. Florida leads the all-time series 33-32-3. The first meeting in 1937 was a 19-0 LSU shutout win in Baton Rouge, and the two teams would not meet again until 1941, which was another Tiger win 10-7 in Baton Rouge. Florida's first win in the series came in 1955 with an 18-14 at Florida Field, and the first win in Baton Rouge was in 1956 with a 21-6 victory. There have been plenty of great games between these teams if you count games with National Championship implications and games that were moved due to Hurricanes and COVID.
Everyone has their top games, but when you have so much time, you can re-watch many Florida games and just think back about why. Now there were games that Florida lost that were really good games, but I would like to forget about them because they were heartbreaking losses. I will list them below:
1997: Florida was coming off of their first-ever National Championship. The Gators came into Tigers Stadium as the number one team in the country and controversy at quarterback. Florida had two quarterbacks that would play, Sophomore Doug Johnson and Freshman Jesse Palmer. This would be LSU's first win over the Gators since 1987 as the Tigers upset the Gators 28-21.
2004: The Gators were looking to get a win over the defending national champion Tigers, but the Gators had other issues going on. Florida had a 21-3 lead, but somehow LSU managed to find their way back as freshman quarterback Jamarcus Russell led LSU to a 24-21 victory. This loss was the beginning of the end for Ron Zook at Florida, as he was fired the following week after Florida lost at Mississippi State.
2007: The defending national champion Gators went to Death Valley, number nine in the country, against the number one-ranked Tigers. This one seemed to be going the Gators way by jumping out to a 10-0 lead and having a 24-14 lead in the third quarter. But LSU was five for five on fourth downs, and that is something that will get you beat. Florida was a young team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A Jacob Hester touchdown would give the Tigers a 28-24 victory on this night in Baton Rouge, but the Gators learned a lesson.
2020 "The Shoe Game": Florida and LSU usually meet in October, but due to a COVID outbreak from a Texas A&M team the week before. The game was forced to be moved to December 12th, and the Gators had already clinched the SEC East title, but they were still hoping for a College Football Playoff birth. The Tigers almost did not have enough players to make the trip to Gainesville, and the Gators were without Kyle Pitts. Florida played from behind throughout the game due to turnovers but had a chance to get LSU off of the field late in the fourth if not for a stupid penalty from Marco Wilson that cost Florida a win. LSU won the game 37-34 in The Swamp over the Gators.
Now I just thought I would list the losses first to get them over with, but I have to admit that if you weren't a fan of either team, those were good games to watch. The best games in the series were the ones that Florida won (no bias there lol), and I will list them below. The are also my top wins over the Tigers in the series.
2003: The week before, Florida had lost at home to Eli Manning and Ole Miss 20-17, and they were 3-3 going into Tigers Stadium. LSU was number three in the country, and this was the Nick Saban led LSU Tigers that went on to win the 2003 BCS National Championship over Oklahoma. LSU jumped to a 7-0 lead off a punt return for a touchdown, but it would be all Gators after that. Key West native Ran Carthon tied the game with a passing touchdown from Chris Leak to the tie game at 7-7, and Keiwan Ratliff would change the game's momentum with an interception in the first quarter. Sarasota native Matt Leach would kick two field goals, and freshman Ran Carthon sealed the deal with a third-quarter touchdown. The Tigers were looking to get back in the game in the fourth quarter as a long pass from Matt Mocke to Dupre Henderson was jarred loose. Florida upset the eventual National Champions 19-7.
2006: The SEC would be introduced to the jump pass on this day. I will be honest, the Tigers outplayed the Gators on Homecoming, but big plays like the jump pass and turnovers would win the game for the Gators. Tim Tebow would hit tight end Tate Casey for the jump pass, leading to a 23-10 Gator win.
2008: Florida had revenge on their minds from the heartbreaking 2007 loss to LSU. It would start on the first drive with a touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Percy Harvin to give the Gators a 7-0 lead. Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes would have two interceptions including one that he took back for a touchdown before punting it into the stands and really getting the team and crowd going. Florida defeated the Tigers commandingly 51-21.
2016: This was the Hurricane Matthew game that was supposed to be played in Gainesville in October of 2016. The University of Florida did all they could to reschedule the game for a later date, and LSU was being very unreasonable in playing it later. Both teams had a date where they had FCS teams scheduled to where they could eventually play the game on November 19th. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey reached out to both teams and said that they could not play in the SEC title game if they did not play all eight SEC games. The game was played on November 19th in Baton Rouge at Tigers Stadium, and it would turn out to be a great game. The game would come down to the most remarkable goal-line stand in Gator history as a pitch to LSU running back Darius Guice was stopped short, and the Gators clinched the SEC East title with a 16-10 win.
Saturday Night in The Swamp should be electric, and I look forward to seeing the stadium packed for the 69th meeting overall between the Gators and the Tigers. LSU is a beatable team, but they have had Florida's number in recent history since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. This is the first overall meeting between Florida against a Brian Kelly coached team as well. After all, he did not coach that 2010 Sugar Bowl when Florida played against a Cincinnatti team that was coached by Kelly all year because he left for Notre Dame. The Swamp is already sold out, and I think the crowd noise could work in the Gators favor Saturday Night.
Feature Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle - USA Today Sports